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Money Matters

Car Reviews

My Favorite Car Review Sites

March 3, 2015
The internet age is an amazing time to be alive, isn’t it? When I imagine libraries full of think, heavy and dusty encyclopedias…or even think about having to write a research paper the old-fashioned way…I’m SO grateful for modern technology! And car-buying is another area that is completely enhanced with the internet. Now you have loads of information at your fingertips, empowering you to get exactly the car you’re looking for! While I believe that nothing can replace an in-person test drive, I suggest using the internet to read up on car models long before you hit the dealership. That way, you’ll be better prepared to communicate with a car salesman and make the process a whole lot easier overall. Car review sites are a great place to get familiar with the pros and cons of all the various models out there. They can help you decide what’s right for you and your lifestyle. With that said, here are some of my favorite places to get car reviews online! 1. This site is an amazing, expansive resource for expert reviews on pretty much every car under the sun. I love the layout because you can simply enter in the car make, model and year you are looking for, then it will direct you to in-depth reviews, as well as pricing in your area, and so much more. It’s one of the easiest sites to navigate and the design is so user-friendly! 2. Kelley Blue Book Of course, I can’t skip over the famous Kelley Blue Book. This site is mainly known as the go-to source for finding out the value of vehicles, but it also has a great car review section of its own. Here, you can skim the latest reviews or search a specific model. I also love their “Top 10” lists that offer categories like “Top 10 SUVs under $30,000.” This allows shoppers to narrow down their options depending on specific needs. So smart! 3. Consumer Reports Like Kelley Blue Book, this site is a household name. People go to Consumer Reports for reviews on all kinds of products, and cars are no exception. I appreciate that they have a tab called “Not sure where to start?” that allows you to look through a new car or used car buyer guide. This site is very thorough and handy for all types of buyers. 4. This site is a little different from the others because it sticks to a blog format. The perk of the blog style is that you can simply scroll down over and over again until you find something that looks interesting. If you feel overwhelmed by all the options on other sites, this is the place to go! It’s also a great read to keep up on even when you’re not necessarily in the market to buy a car. 5. Now here’s a site that is totally comprehensive in the car-buying process. You can read reviews and then be buying that same car with a few clicks of the button. It’s pretty crazy what we can do in this day and age! Autotrader is a great option if you want to stick to one site for reviews, tips on buying and selling, pricing information and even financing help. This site truly has it all. 6. What I LOVE about this site is the option it gives to compare one car with another. You can look through a drop-down menu and select the specific make/model/year of two (or even three!) different cars, and then it spits out side-by-side comparisons of the vehicle. The comparison includes pricing, features, fuel economy, overall review ratings and more. This is particularly amazing because while other sites sometimes compare two vehicles in a review, this let’s you customize it to be any car you want. It’s SO helpful! 7. If you like visuals, Motortrend will be your new favorite site. Here, you’ll find a vast amount of photos of every vehicle you could ever want to research. They also have a great layout that categorizes the reviews into different sections and let’s you find just what you’re looking for, whether it’s the first look at a new model or a one-year review. 8. Car and Driver This is a popular site among car lovers, but it’s also great for novices too. Aside from the usual guide to specific vehicles, Car and Driver has cool videos that give you a different look at the car models you’re interested in. They also do instrumented tests and comparison tests so you really know what to expect from your potential new ride. 9. Jalopnik If you struggle to keep interested in car reviews, head straight to Jalopnik. Your attention will be held for longer than you can imagine! Jalopnik is a hilarious site that does a great job of making cars fun for anyone and everyone — not just car enthusiasts! They make all kinds of posts, but you can find interesting car reviews from people who seriously know their stuff. Be warned though, you’ll definitely want to stop and read posts about everything from car history to car bloopers along the way! 10. Top Gear This show may have originated in the UK, but Top Gear has taken America by storm, and their website is worth a visit when you’re doing car research. There are many British models that you won’t find in the U.S., but they also have an extensive guide to American car brands like Chevrolet and Ford. The reviews are succinct and detailed, so you can quickly digest helpful information!
Behind the Wheel

6 Myths About Buying From a Car Dealership

March 3, 2015
After practically growing up in a car dealership, I’ve learned a lot about how they operate. I’ve also learned that many people have pre-conceived notions about what it’s like to buy a car from a dealership. And like any stereotype, these ideas are broad generalities that just simply aren’t true for most people, most of the time! For this post, I’d like to do more than say those stereotypes are wrong. Instead, I want to set the record straight so people know exactly what they’re getting into when buying from a car dealership! Read on to learn about six myths I can bust about the car-buying experience at a dealership: 1. Extended warranties aren’t worth it. For some reason, many people seem to think that extended warranties are just a scam to get you to spend more money at the car dealership. And although there may be occasional circumstances where an extended warranty isn’t right for you, I’d highly encourage you to look into it! Just as medical insurance is an essential part of keeping your body in good shape, extended warranties will extend the life of your car. Sure, they do cost some money, but the savings you’ll get if you have any car damage is far beyond the amount you’ll spend on the warranty. If you want to keep your car for more than five years, the warranty will absolutely pay for itself, as it usually covers things like damage to anti-lock brakes, electrical systems, transmission, air conditioner and more. 2. The Kelley Blue Book price of a car is absolute truth. Many people waltz into the dealership thinking there is a hard-fast price attached to the car they want, and they won’t settle for anything more than that price. This number in their head usually comes from one source: Kelley Blue Book. And while this site is an amazing source for ballpark price ranges, people need to know that car dealerships do not consider Kelley Blue Book to be the Bible of car pricing. So many other elements come into consideration when pricing a vehicle, so be ready for something other than that price you see online! 3. The car salesman is trying to trick me. This is the biggest myth that has been perpetuated over time. But I’ve got news for you — your car sales person has a job because they have helped enough people get into the car they want. If they were truly tricking people and scheming, they probably wouldn’t have a job for long! Yes, car salesmen have a job, and their job is to get you to buy a car. But they’re human, too. 4. I can trick the car salesman into a better deal. Just as your car salesman isn’t there to trick you, he or she also isn’t there to get tricked. This isn’t like haggling at a flea market in a foreign country. There aren’t stunts you can pull to get a deal that you would’ve never had offered to you if you were a “typical buyer.” So save the walk-aways and tricks for another arena, be honest and upfront about what you want, and the salesman will do their best to deliver. 5. Pitting dealerships against each other will give you a better deal. Trust me, sales people are very aware of the competition. You won’t surprise them or threaten them by telling them about the better deal you can get at so-and-so’s dealership down the street. It’s best to shop around for the best deal and then dedicate your business to that dealership. 6. You can get a better deal on a car at the end of the month. Yes, dealers have the task of moving cars off the lot so they can bring in new inventory, and the end of the month is crunch time before goals must be met. But the end of the month doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get the best deal — the salesman may have already met their goals and be ready to take on a new month! Bottom line: you can’t predict what’s going on behind the scenes at the dealership, so some online research ahead of time and some due diligence with the car salesman will be your best bet for getting a deal, rather than relying on timing and luck.
Behind the Wheel

New vs. Used Car: What's Right For You?

January 11, 2014
Unless you’ve had your eye set on a certain car for years, you may be overwhelmed with the prospect of figuring out where to begin when purchasing a new car. There are so many brands, so many models, and so many variations of those models to choose from! Deciding on a new or used car is another big hurdle to cross. Most people just think of new cars being nicer and more desirable, while used cars are cheaper and often more practical. But there’s a lot more that should go into consideration when deciding between the two options, so I’ve written this post to help you explore new and used cars on a deeper level. After reading this post, hopefully you’ll know which option is right for you! First, let’s talk about the pros of getting a new car: -No one else has used it. Let’s start with the obvious! Most people clearly enjoy the new aspect of a new car. There’s just something comforting and more luxurious about being the first to use something — especially a car! You’ll know its entire history, you’ll be the first to use every feature, and you can treat it the way you think it should be treated, from the very beginning! -Warranty: Along with the other perks of having a new car, one of the best is the fact that your car will be under warranty for a period of time. The length and conditions of warranties vary from car to car and dealership to dealership, but its always nice to know that if something goes wrong, you’ve got a backup plan. -Customized, latest and greatest features: Because you’re the original owner of the car, you can choose the features you want in the vehicle from the very beginning. No updating a 10-year-old car with a brand new stereo, no getting a new paint job. You just pick the features you’d like and it’s all included in the cost of purchase. -Longer life span. These days, cars are built to last at least 100,000 miles. (And some will last you much longer!) Still, the closer you get to that magic number, the more unreliable your car usually becomes. The life span is most important for those who plan to keep a car until it dies, but you’ll also want to consider the life span when thinking about the re-selling value. If the car has a short life span when you sell it, you won’t make much money off of it! -Built safer. The auto industry is constantly improving safety standards, so the newer your car, the more likely it is to keep you safe in a crash. Safety should of course be a huge consideration when getting behind the wheel! -Better gas mileage. Like the ever-improving safety standards, the auto industry is also constantly improving the fuel efficiency of most vehicles. Car buyers like this for the lower everyday cost, but it’s also an important way to keep our earth green. -Fewer repairs needed. Because the mileage hasn’t been racked up on a new car, it’s likely to be running smoothly without any trouble for many years to come. And of course you’ve also got a warranty in case any major problems arise. So while you may be paying more upfront, it might cost you less later on. -New car smell :-). Need I say more? Even if you get a “new car smell” scent, it just can’t be replicated! Now, let’s talk about the pros of getting a used car: -Lower price on a nicer model. If you’ve got a set budget and have a thing for BMWs or Mercedes, a used car will get you a lot more bang for your buck. For the same price you might pay for a very straight-forward, economy vehicle straight off the lot, you could be driving a nice used car with all the bells and whistles. (Even if the car is just a few years old with very few miles on it!) -Avoid registration fees and sales tax. When you start shopping for a new car, you’ll see the sticker price, but then you’ll have to add a whole lot more to the cost on top of that. Registration fees, sales tax, extra features and other processes will bump up the price quite a bit. With a used car, someone else has already gone through all that hassle! -Slower depreciation of value. Cars depreciate in value with every mile and year that passes by, but the depreciation slows down significantly after the first few years. Hence, the original owner will be taking most of the burden off whomever buys the car next, and you might be able to re-sell the car at a more reasonable price. -Lower insurance payments. Insurance companies offer better rates for used cars. New cars are worth more and would cost much more to replace, so lucky you! Your monthly bill will be lower than the original owner ever had to pay. -Ability to drive a unique or discontinued model. Say you’ve got a thing for vintage muscle cars or an awesome old Datsun truck. Well, buying a used car will be a no-brainer in that case, because you won’t be finding any of those on a new car lot! Used cars of an older era just have a certain charm you can’t get with a new model. Plus, it’s always fun to wonder about the history of where the car has been and what it has lived through with its previous owner! -You might be able to avoid car payments. Some advocates of used cars like the fact that the price could be so low, all of the cost of the car could be paid upfront. You write the check, hand it to the seller and walk away without every having to think about car payments! Of course, you could do that with a new car too, but you’d have to have a whole lot more money in the bank! 🙂
Auto News

How to Get the New Car You Really Want

January 6, 2014
In the new year I’m willing to be that many of you are ready for a fresh start. And you might even be looking for a fresh start with your car! Though it’s a big purchase to make, the beginning of the year is a great time to be in the market for a new vehicle. You’re refreshed with the start of a new year and most likely resolved to set budgets, priorities, life goals, etc! I put this post together to help you avoid the overwhelming feeling that often comes with car shopping. Even though most people have a few ideas of what they want in a car, sometimes they end walking away from the dealership unsatisfied. I think this usually happens because people haven’t done their due diligence, and they get confused along the car shopping journey. Hence, I’ve made this outline to help you through the car-buying process. If you follow these steps, you’ll avoid much of the stress of car shopping. Take it slow, don’t skip any steps, and you’ll be on your way to new car happiness!
  • First, determine your budget. This ultimately will guide you through the rest of the car buying process, because it will give you a starting ground for the type of cars you’ll be able to shop for.
  • Next, determine the most important features your car must have. Are you a commuter who values great gas mileage? A mother who values passenger capability? A young professional who’s got the need for speed?
  • After you’ve set a budget and qualities of your car, you’ll need to figure out if you’re in the market for a new car or a used car. They both have their benefits, but your lifestyle will probably be best suited for one or the other.
  • Once you narrow down a budget, features of your car and if you want new or used, it’s time to do your research. Look online for cars that have the features you’re looking for, compare and contrast the differences between similar vehicles, and decide on one or two that might be right for you.
  • Before getting in the driver’s seat, you’ll also want to get an idea of how much you’ll be paying for the car you want. Look up the value of the car, and learn about how dealerships and private sellers will be pricing the vehicle. You don’t want to go into the situation surprised by the amount you have to spend. Knowledge is power when you’re negotiating!
  • Now it’s time to head to the dealership! You’ve read about the cars, but you’ll need to get behind the wheel to really know how you feel.
  • After test driving, I recommend going home to sleep on it. Think about the pros and cons of each car and which one will be best for your lifestyle and give you the most bang for your buck.
  • Finally, it’s buying time. Keeping in mind the research you’ve done on pricing, and leave a bit of room for flexibility. For example, if a car is new and in high demand, you may have a harder time getting the price you want. But if the car is older and more plentiful in supply, you have more room to demand the price you want!
After buying, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and enjoy that new ride! Your new car is going to play a huge role in your life, so the experience should be a pleasant one. I hope these tips help!
Car Culture

Buying a Car 101

June 19, 2013
carbuying3 You know what always scared me about buying a new car? The commercials. You’d see this gorgeous car being driven down a closed course on your TV, showing off all the perks of the vehicle — a V8 engine, 271 horsepower, 490 mile range… whatever the works may be. Suddenly you’re envisioning yourself in this car, along with all the adventures you’ll have in it. Driving to the beach. Camping. A night out on the town. But five seconds into your daydream, the voice-over starts. A man is talking a mile a minute, and you catch words like “down payment” and “APR”; at the bottom of the screen is fine print that you’d need a a microscope to read. Your daydream comes crashing down. There’ll be no driving along the beach, no night on the town with your closest friends as far as you’re concerned — especially if it means deciphering the details on the bottom of your TV screen. But buying a car can’t be that bad, can it? Especially if so many people have them. I’ve come up with a little cheat sheet to help out all you newbies in the car-buying world. Today I’ll focus on buying a brand new car. 1. First off, think about your budget. While I don’t want to say settling is the only answer, you definitely don’t want to jump over the moon and buy the first bright red convertible you see. Have a price cap in mind and do not go over it. Self control is extremely necessary when purchasing a brand new car. 2. There are certain questions to ask yourself before purchasing a car: -Will you need to haul heavy equipment? -Do you need a family-sized car? -Will four-wheel drive be necessary according to your location? -Are you going to travel a lot? Be sure to mention all these points when talking to your salesperson. 3. Car price. It can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are three prices you’ll deal with: average price, dealer price, and sticker price. I. The average price is good to know so you don’t end up paying way more than anyone else did. Ask away and keep that number in the back of your mind. II. A little trickier to get is the dealer price. If you are able to find it, negotiate up from that number rather than working down from sticker-price. *Keep in mind the dealer will add on dollars for options like air conditioning, CD-player, anti-lock brakes, etc. 4. Do your research. You are buying a car — ideally one that you will have for a loooong time, so you need to know what other people are saying and not just what the salesperson in front of you is telling you. Look at magazines and websites like MotorTrend magazine,, Automobile magazine, and
FUN FACT: Dealers profit from you buying cars (Way to go, Captain Obvious — yes I know… but wait for it). Here are the ways they profit from you: A. The negotiating price for the trade-in. B. The negotiation price for the new car. C. Scams in the business office post-negotiations.
5. Fundamentals — AKA bring your drivers license (particularly if you’re going to test drive). 6. Up next is credit history knowledge. I cannot stress this enough: make sure you bring your credit history, in the flesh, with you. All the flashy commercials you see on TV are generally ideal for people with stellar credit history. This doesn’t mean none of the deals will apply to you, but don’t expect to get a cheap-o car just because of something you saw on TV. Your credit score will reflect the car dealership’s faith in you. Simply put, the better your credit score, the easier the car-buying. 7. Another necessary document is your proof of insurance card. You’ll need this especially if you’re applying for a car loan at the dealership. If you don’t have full insurance on a vehicle before walking onto the lot, make sure you contact your insurance company immediately after the purchase, with the car’s year, make and model, VIN, and number of miles on the car. Once your company has received all the necessary paperwork, and you’ve made the payment, they can send proof of insurance to the dealership and you can take your new car home. 8. Itty-bitty details that’ll save you in huge ways: -Know the competition. Dealerships don’t like it when someone else sells the same car for a lot cheaper, so if you’re aware of any deals at other dealerships, toss your knowledge out there and see where it gets you price-wise. -They can’t run a credit history check on you without your permission. In fact, it’s illegal. -Don’t give the dealer your Social Security Number. -It’s best to buy a new car the last two weeks of December, or between July and October, so hold out for those dates and you’ll get the best price. -APR means Annual Percentage Rates. The low rates posted during commercials are, like I mentioned earlier, usually only for people with perfect credit, OR they only last for a certain period of time before they go up. -Most car buyers these days make an initial down payment (a nice chunk of money), and then finance a balance (AKA they make monthly car payments to pay off the rest). -Look for the best interest rate… seriously. And read the fine print. Some dealerships will only have a low interest rate for the first year and then it’ll shoot up. Keep an eye on these guys.